Soviet Georgia's Communist Party chief and premier were removed Friday, five days after they ordered troops to disperse a crowd of protesters in a bloody melee that killed 19 people. The KGB chief was named party leader.
"Nobody and nothing can justify the deaths of absolutely innocent people," Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, himself an ethnic Georgian, said in a speech to the local party plenum that made the leadership changes.He said in remarks later broadcast on Soviet television that it was impossible to tolerate blunders by officials that led to "death and loss."
Shevardnadze, party chief in the southern republic from 1972 to 1985 and a member of the ruling Politburo in Moscow, was dispatched to his homeland after Sunday's bloodshed.
The resignation of Communist Party First Secretary Dzhumber I. Patiashvili, who had accepted responsibility for the tragedy, was unanimously accepted by the party's Central Committee after "heated discussion," Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov told a news briefing in Moscow.
Givi G. Gumbaridze, who has been Georgia's KGB chief for two months, was elected to replace Patiashvili. Gumbaridze, 45, previously served as party leader in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital city of 1.2 million people.
Premier Zurab Chkheidze also was removed at a separate meeting of Georgia's Presidium, or top government body, the official Tass news agency reported. Nodari Chitanava, a Central Committee secretary, was named the new head of the republic's government, Tass said.
Georgia's president, Otari Cherkeziya, also offered to resign, and the matter will be considered at the next session of Georgia's Supreme Soviet parliament, which is empowered to remove him.
Tass quoted Shevardnadze as telling the meeting that lessons from the incident were "difficult and bitter," adding that the events were "detrimental" to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's reform policies.
Gerasimov gave no reason for the Georgia shake-up but said earlier that leaders in Georgia accepted responsibility for directing troops to clear a square of pro-independence demonstrators in Tbilisi on Sunday. At least 19 people were killed by official count.
The republic's Communist Party newspaper Zarya Vostoka said local party leaders couldn't escape responsibility "when a political decision taken by the leadership was carried out, unfortunately, in such a way that it led to heavy moral, ethical and human losses."
Signs posted at Tbilisi State University after the clash outside local government headquarters called Patiashvili a "killer." The 49-year-old Georgian was elected first secretary in July 1985, succeeding Shevardnadze.
In shaking up their leadership, Georgian party officials were following a pattern set last year in the neighboring republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After four months of nationalist protests there, the Armenian and Azerbaijani party chiefs were fired for not halting the unrest.
Tass described the situation in Georgia as stable Friday, with all enterprises in the capital working "at full blast."